Press Release

Northern KZN deserves development beyond uMhlathuze – Ulundi Mayor

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Statement issued by Ulundi Local Municipality, Mayor Wilson Ntshangase…

On the budget announcement by the MEC for Health. Hon. Nomagugu Zulu, regarding the establishment of a Tertiary Hospital in Umhlathuze at Empangeni and other government-funded public amenities arranged for the City of uMhlathuze.

UMhlathuze has 2 Public Hospitals; Empangeni Hospital (NPA) a facility catering for detailed illnesses and Ngwelezane District Hospital, three sophisticated, well managed and affluent private hospitals, Bay Hospital, Empangeni Garden Clinic and Melomed.

All these hospitals offer uMhlathuze area medical interventions that are not available in all black areas situated in the extreme north of KwaZulu/Natal. The MEC for Health makes this announcement while Umhlathuze already enjoys government-funded facilities available in Empangeni such as the Zululand University in Empangeni, Qalakabusha Prison a Medium A Prison Facility in Empangeni, a University Campus in Richards Bay, other government facilities within the same municipality, to name but a few.

Umhlathuze Municipality is at least 100 kilometres from a centrally positioned Ulundi area, about 250 kilometres from eDumbe, about 150 kilometres from Nongoma, more than 150 kilometres from Pongola, Jozini and Umhlabuyalingana. All these far-flung historically impoverished black areas that still languish in destitution and exclusion,  since the dawn of democracy have never known a development funded by the government of KwaZulu/Natal and South Africa half the size of the budget the Health MEC in the Province Hon. Nomagugu Zulu has committed to Empangeni.

It means that our government more than 20 years into democracy still perpetuates the Group Areas Act eco-geographical phenomenon, in which all proper upmarket government investment was set aside for areas where white people live.

As a typical rural municipality, Ulundi is concerned that all the blacks-only areas in the far north of the Province while since the dawn of democracy receive a far less equitable share from Treasury, far less infrastructure development grant (MIG from Cogta), far less electrification grant (INEP from DoE), are underprivileged due to an unshakable non-existent rates base, while government approves heavy Eskom tariffs including heavy non-consumption penalties such as a hefty Electricity Rural Subsidy that electricity licentiate municipalities pay regularly to Eskom and a constant failure by some government departments to pay for rates and services on time. All these negativities conspire to cast a permanent death spell on the marginalised areas in the far north of the Province.

We have also been alerted that certain non-political entities that our government utilises to conduct viability studies are mainly composed of the very conflicted individuals who also consider other already available amenities such as “good school”, businesses, retail as well as recreational amenities never found in blacks-only areas. We, therefore, call on our government not to allow the officials and so-called experts to inevitably mess up with their legacy as decision-makers. History will judge our government leaders harshly, when we as the poor in the far north cast the same degree of the ballot, only to be permanently excluded from the economy. As evidently the people of uMhlathuze will be employed in this Tertiary Hospitals and uMhlathuze’s already booming economy will receive a further boost and the likes of Ulundi remains only with a gigantic unutilised sophisticated and now dilapidating parliamentary building, government chambers and upmarket yet unkept and more than 50 ministerial and senior official houses that are invaded by the unemployed locals,  while the government pays hefty rentals for offices and accommodation in Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

As the community of Ulundi we are also appalled by the reduction of a High Court situated in Ulundi and established by the erstwhile government to a Magistrate Court, which also means that the Ulundi, Nongoma, Nkandla, AbaQulusi, Mthonjaneni, Pongola and crime victims from the far north areas have to traverse the width and breath of KwaZulu/Natal to Pietermaritzburg and Durban in order to access justice. We are also not satisfied that a High Court mooted by DoJ to service the north is also earmarked for the uMhlathuze area. This shall not bring justice closer to the poor. Similarly the largely unemployed and excluded will remain excluded. And the financially capable cosmopolitan people of Empangeni and Richardsbay will find justice close to their homes. Letters after letters have been written to the National Minister and DG explaining the very geographical factors to no avail. We therefore appeal to the present national government not to fall prey to officials who conducted shambolic public consultation sessions that shall bring this very vital service closer to the white people and already developed self serving facilities.

We also wrote a communication to the Department of Higher Education and Training alerting the Minister that it is unfair for appealing for a facility of higher education focusing on at least multi-physical trades, or a technological facility or campus within the Zululand area for the very same reason that poor rural students of the District still travel and parents pay rentals in uMhlathuze and Durban to secure education. With a pass rate in mainly our rural high schools mediocre comparatively speaking, very few scholars obtain bursaries as such the pensioners and social grant recipients still send children to uMhlathuze and Durban for education.

As communities living in rural areas, we are concerned that our government spends our tax collectables in the exclusionary method.

We, therefore, appeal to our Premier, Hon. Sihle Zikalala, cabinet and the legislature to intercede on behalf of the poorest of the poor, who shall continue perishing and suffering from illnesses and conditions that require medical intervention that the area of uMhlathuze is already awash with.

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